Royal Ascot 2013: Spirit of Sir Henry Cecil alive in global carnival

Royal meeting opens with international fanfare after scandals and bereavement

Many who arrive dressed for a wedding will in fact be preoccupied by the funeral that looms as soon as it is all over. But they must remember how Sir Henry Cecil himself found such consolation, even in extremis, in the gorgeous trappings of Royal Ascot. If those who have grieved him over the past week are now inclined to disparage hats and horses alike, as emblems of mortal vanity, then they must honour the most prolific trainer in the meeting's history by postponing those sobered perspectives that represent our only profit from bereavement. Because he would not have had it any other way.

Cecil insisted on continuity at the stable where he prepared 75 Royal Ascot winners, which has duly come up with five at lesser meetings since Thursday. His widow, who has been given a temporary licence, will bring the yard's midsummer blooms to Ascot – including a half-sister to Frankel, the champion who so sustained Cecil in his fight against cancer and reserved his defining performance for the opening race last year. Joyeuse, impressive on her debut, lines up for the Albany Stakes on Friday; other leading fancies for Warren Place include its only runner today, Tiger Cliff.

Cecil himself planned all these entries for a meeting he cherished above all others. For whether in the judicious alignment of tie, buttonhole and waistcoat, or the perfecting of his horses' sculpted muscle and shimmering coat, he always seemed to depend upon the same sensibilities.

And if his last bequest is an imperative to celebrate, rather than mourn, then the sport is hardly in a position to demur. Seldom can it have approached Ascot in such misery. Until finally united by communal grief, last week, Newmarket's professional community had been sickened by a series of scandals. Most egregious was the disgrace of Mahmood al-Zarooni, whose success with Rewilding in the Prince of Wales's Stakes here two years ago had seemed to announce a young talent to rejuvenate Sheikh Mohammed's stagnating Godolphin stable. In April, the sport was stunned by exposure of Zarooni's use of anabolic steroids, and he was promptly banned for eight years.

A top-class rider, Eddie Ahern, has since had his own career ruined by allegations of corruption. Even the sport's long-standing pin-up, Frankie Dettori, has contrived to let it down. Today he returns to the track where seven winners in one afternoon once sealed his status as a superstar, 18 days into his freelance career after ending an 18-year association with Godolphin. Dettori has mustered five winners since returning from that six-month suspension, for a failed cocaine test, and a Royal Ascot winner this week would be as precious as any of the previous 47. His former employer is anxious to see prestige restored to the Godolphin silks by Dawn Approach, making a quick reappearance after his Derby debacle.

One way or another, it is comforting that horsemen from round the world should obligingly attest to Ascot's abiding allure. The favourite for the second race today tries to become South Africa's first winner at the meeting. By then, however, the globetrotter who tops the bill for the entire week will already have run.

While his own connections decorously abjure any pretence that Animal Kingdom approaches the freakish ability of Frankel, who careered 11 lengths clear in the Queen Anne Stakes last year, they should at least be credited for campaigning him with infinitely more adventure. For a Kentucky Derby winner to contest a Breeders' Cup Mile, on grass and after a nine-month absence, was audacious enough. Emboldened by his unlucky second at Santa Anita last autumn, his owner and trainer have since disowned the notorious insularity of the American sport by sending Animal Kingdom to plunder the richest prize on the planet, in Dubai, and now to become the first post-war Kentucky Derby winner to run at Royal Ascot.

This will be his final start, before a new career at stud. That is how champion racehorses can ensure they are gone, but not forgotten. In the case of their masters, names tend to endure only in record books or memories. And who would reproach Cecil, now, for preferring the fleeting but tangible satisfactions of this dandy carnival to so slight a legacy?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition